Source: (2007) Journal of Law and Society. 34(4):411-440.

The field of transitional justice is increasingly characterized by the dominance of legalism to the detriment of both scholarship and practice. The first part of the paper examines what is meant by legalism and its consequences in the field through a number of over- lapping themes: `legalism as seduction', the `triumph' of human rights, and the tendency towards `seeing like a state'. The second part con- siders a number of correctives to such leanings which are analysed as encouraging legal humility, exploring the human rights as development axis, and finally developing a criminology of transitional justice. As law's place at the heart of transition from conflict is now secure, the time is right for a more honest appraisal of the limitations of legalism and a correspondingly greater willingness to countenance the role of other [non-legal] actors and forms of knowledge. `Letting go of legal- ism' will both thicken the subject and deliver more effective change on the ground. (author's abstract)